Evan Petzold | Detroit Free Press
LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers are going to be without six position players for the early stages of spring training.
Outfielder Nomar Mazara, outfielder Victor Reyes, second baseman Jonathan Schoop, third baseman Isaac Paredes, first baseman Renato Nunez and first baseman Aderlin Rodriguez will be late to spring training because of travel and work visa issues.
Manager AJ Hinch expects this group to arrive in Lakeland, undergo a five-day quarantine, complete COVID-19 intake screening and pass physicals within the next week.
“In a perfect world, I’d love to have them all here on my first day having full squads,” Hinch said Sunday. “A lot of these, I’m not concerned at all about being ready. These guys are ready to go. But I can’t wait to get the whole camp here.”
Also, they’re still waiting on right-hander Jose Urena, lefty reliever Gregory Soto and right-hander Gerson Moreno to report to camp. As of Thursday, Urena and Soto arrived in the U.S., but are still going through the quarantine and COVID-19 intake screening process.
“None of that group will play in the first game,” Hinch said. “No matter when they come in, we’re going to have a couple of days of work with them. Just to assess their readiness, get them on their feet.”
A handful of position players on Saturday reported to camp: Miguel Cabrera, Jeimer Candelario, Willi Castro, Niko Goodrum, Willi Castro and Zack Short. All the players on schedule for Monday’s workout had to get physicals, which Hinch said are going as planned.
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Detroit Tigers outfield prospect Daz Cameron speaks before his MLB debut Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, against the Milwaukee Brewers at Comerica Park.Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
Daz’s injury update
Cameron injured his arm in December playing in Puerto Rico. He then returned to the U.S. and has been in Lakeland rehabbing. Because it’s an elbow injury, Hinch is going to be cautious with his throwing.
But Cameron, 24, swung the bat Sunday, and he’s going to do limited outfield work Monday.
“It’s been a longer rehab process,” Hinch said. “No real setbacks. Nothing that surprised us. We’re just going to have him on a slower program. If you were here, you’d see him run the team fundamentals, pop-up communication tomorrow, base running, hitting. He just has a limited schedule compared to the rest of the guys.”
Based on the team’s current outfielders (Mazara, Reyes, Robbie Grossman, JaCoby Jones), Cameron seems likely to start the year in Triple-A Toledo. He made his MLB debut in 2020, going 11-for-57 (.193) with two doubles, one triple and three RBIs. He struck out 19 times compared to two walks.
Cameron played two games in Puerto Rico this winter before he was shut down. He went 0-for-7 with one walk and four strikeouts.
“I hope he makes a push and makes it hard on us,” Hinch said. “I thought he really adjusted well. He got a little bit more comfortable as the short season got a little bit longer, started to make some adjustments. … He flashed some things that you like. He’s got a challenge in front of him to find a way to fit in. The way you do that is by playing hard, playing well and, first, getting healthy.”
Right-hander Franklin Perez missed the beginning of pitcher-catcher workouts for noninjury reasons, but once his COVID-19 intake screening and physical were processed and completed, he returned Sunday for workouts.
Perez pitched just 27 innings between the 2018 and 2019 seasons because of injuries. The 23-year-old stayed at full health with the minors canceled in 2020 and pitched at the alternate training site.
“Mission accomplished,” Hinch said. “The greatest mystery so far has now been solved. We have him. We’re ready.”
Ramos wants in
New Tigers catcher Wilson Ramos played 45 of 60 games last season for the New York Mets. He had at least one or two day off a week alongside Robinson Chirinos, Tomas Nido and Ali Sanchez in the catcher room.
That didn’t sit right with him.
“I was working really hard in the offseason to play every day, but I didn’t get that opportunity last year,” Ramos said Saturday. “But this year, that’s the opportunity I want. I want to demonstrate that I’m able to play more and be consistent.”
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The lack of playing time — compared to 141 of 162 games in 2019 — affected his offensive performance, Ramos said. He hit .239 last year with five home runs and 15 RBIs.
In 2019, Ramos finished with a .288 batting average, 14 homers and 73 RBIs when playing almost daily.
“I’m very consistent with I play every day,” Ramos said. “The short season affected me on that point. This year, the comeback is strong. I’m very healthy and light. I want to show everybody that I can still play every day.”
Ramos is the clear starter for the Tigers, with a developing backup battle between Jake Rogers, Grayson Greiner, Dustin Garneau and Eric Haase.
Paging Mr. Rogers
The message to Rogers, who hit .125 in 35 games during his last MLB stint in 2019, seems simple: Start hitting the baseball, or you’re going to Triple-A Toledo.
But there’s more to his evaluation.
“All eyes are on the offense, right?” Hinch said. “But the reality is, from his manager, I want him to know he will lose playing time or lose his spot on the roster because of what he does on defense. We have to continue to encourage and get the most out of his defense. That’s his No. 1 priority.”
Rogers, who played one game as DH, had nine passed balls in 34 games behind the dish in 2019. For comparison, during his time in the minors that year between Triple-A and Double-A Erie, he had five passed balls in 69 games.
While working on his offense might keep him in the majors, it seems his defense is the priority for him to earn the backup role in 2021.